On Friday, the US Justice Department intensified its inquiry into Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, by designating a special counsel to handle allegations involving tax fraud and questionable international business ventures.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has chosen prosecutor David Weiss for this role, a move that follows Weiss’s ongoing investigation of Hunter Biden since 2019, initially focused on minor tax and firearm-related charges.
This announcement coincided with Weiss informing a federal court in Delaware that a previously agreed-upon plea deal with Biden in June was no longer valid, suggesting the potential filing of felony tax charges against the president’s son in different legal jurisdictions.
Garland stated that Weiss, initially appointed as a federal prosecutor during the tenure of Joe Biden’s political opponent Donald Trump, sought special counsel status to enable a broader scope for the investigation.
“Upon considering his request, as well as the extraordinary circumstances relating to this matter, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint him as special counsel,” Garland said.
Deals in China, Ukraine
The move comes as Joe Biden is running for reelection, possibly in a rematch with ex-president Trump, himself accused of felony crimes in the investigation by another Justice Department special counsel, Jack Smith.
Republicans have made Hunter Biden’s business dealings a target in trying to damage the Democratic incumbent’s standing some 15 months before the election.
Garland gave no hint on the subject matter of Weiss’ expanded probe, only saying his elevation to special counsel “reaffirms” the independence and authority of his investigation.
Hunter Biden has come under investigation in Congress over business deals he did in China, Ukraine and elsewhere during and after his father’s 2009-2017 term as vice president.
A former business associate told Congress recently that Hunter had gotten his father involved in telephone calls with his foreign partners several times.
Republicans allege Joe Biden used his political position to help his son — a claim the president denies.
Hunter Biden is also believed to be facing possible prosecution for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, in relation to some of his offshore business deals.
Broken plea deal
Until now, Weiss’s investigation has focused on low-level charges that Hunter Biden, 53, didn’t pay taxes on millions of dollars in income, and illegally bought a firearm.
In a preliminary plea deal, the court was told Biden erred during a period that he was heavily using drugs, and that he has since paid the back taxes and fines.
Weiss agreed to Biden being sentenced to probation on two tax counts and entering a counseling and rehabilitation program for the firearms charge.
But on July 26, the deal fell apart after Judge Maryellen Noreika queried why the gun charge was included in a tax case, and whether the agreement protected Biden from other charges — something Biden had believed but Weiss denied.
Biden then entered a not guilty plea, and the two sides were expected to work out a new agreement.
But on Friday, Weiss said those talks had reached an impasse, cancelled the deal and indicated that he would file felony tax charges in other venues.
What remained unclear is whether he would pursue other charges on top of those already known.
Republicans say DOJ protecting Biden
There was no comment from the White House on Weiss’s elevation to special counsel.
In a social media post, a Trump spokesperson alleged that the Biden family had been “protected by the Justice Department for decades.”
“There is overwhelming evidence and credible testimony detailing their wrongdoing of lying to the American people and selling out the country to foreign enemies for the Biden Cartel’s own financial gain,” the spokesperson said, without offering evidence.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy indicated that the Congressional probe of Hunter Biden will continue.
“This action by Biden’s DOJ cannot be used to obstruct congressional investigations or whitewash the Biden family corruption,” he said on social media.
It was unclear if Weiss would adhere to his promise to testify on his Biden probe to the House Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks now that he has been named a special counsel.
In a statement, the committee’s Republican majority said they expect Weiss to uphold his commitment.